Don't be misled by ANY of the US critics who reviewed this remarkable movie. The Emperor's Shadow's (Qin Song) opening sequence-anything but subtle with hundreds of enormous bells being sacrificed to a thundering cataract of water and river foam--and the dying Emperor's last pronouncement are a perfect preamble for what follows.
And pay no attention to the cursory plot summaries--far more is involved here than a simple stubborn musician who seduces the Emperor's favorite daughter and refuses to compose a national anthem. Word play, puns and verbal sparring are very important in the film (e.g. the instrument the musician plays is a qin; the Emperor is head of the Qin dynasty); and the love/hate; cat and mouse; art vs politics; peace vs war; pacifism vs force themes embodied in the relationship between the Emperor and the musician is one of the most fascinating interpersonal conundrums since Henry II and Thomas Becket.
The fact that this extraordinary film did not make the rounds of all US art houses is a tragedy. The scope, the grandure, the uniformly excellent performances, the stunning cinematography add up to a unique and unusually compelling experience.
The Emperor's Shadow may also be one of your very last chances to witness a true epic--there are no computer generated masses here--each one of those thousands and thousands of soldiers is a real human being.
The Emperor's Shadow is a misunderstood, over-looked, underestimated masterpiece.